AP: SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Construction of two private villas inside a national park in Barbuda has sparked the latest environmental legal fight between angry residents and wealthy foreigners seeking to develop the Caribbean island with support from the government.

George Jeffery, a local fisherman and tour guide, and the United Kingdom-based nonprofit Global Legal Action Network filed a lawsuit Thursday against the government of the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

The suit seeks to overturn the construction permit because the island’s Development Control Authority approved the high-end development despite the national environmental department rejecting the proposal twice.

The legal fight comes on the heels of another case in which Barbudan residents and Global Legal Action Network are opposing the construction of hundreds of luxury residences, an 18-hole golf course, a beach club, and a natural gas storage facility on more than 600 acres (240 hectares) of protected wetland in Barbuda.

In the new lawsuit, Gearóid Ó Cuinn, director of Global Legal Action Network, said, “This small island nation is under-resourced and faces an enormous fight against wealthy foreign developers.”

Ó Cuinn and Jeffery are asking the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in St Lucia to quash the permit that officials awarded in May 2022.

Officials with Abercorn Trust Inc., which is building the project, could not be immediately reached for comment about the suit, and the government’s Development Control Authority did not return a message for comment.

Construction already has started on the project, which envisions two luxury homes of at least 15,000 square feet each along with swimming pools, tennis courts, and a helicopter pad at the site in northwestern Barbuda.

The site covers 114 acres (46 hectares) on the fringes of Codrington Lagoon National Park, a protected wetland that is home to a frigate bird sanctuary, a turtle nesting site and endangered species including the upside-down jellyfish, the West Indian whistling duck and the Barbudan warbler, according to court documents.

“Wetlands are the most effective natural carbon sinks on the planet protecting humanity from climate change,” Ó Cuinn said.

The suit seeks to overturn the construction permit because the island’s Development Control Authority approved the high-end development despite the national environmental department rejecting the proposal twice.